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Judges decide: No tax benefits from first degree


ZEIT ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates

Berlin / Karlsruhe (dpa) - specialist books, copy costs, semester fees and the flat share - studying can be very expensive for young people. In certain circumstances, they can recover part of their expenses through the tax return.

But that only applies in special cases and by no means for everyone. According to a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court on Friday, this distinction is legal. For most students and many trainees, it will still not be worthwhile to file a tax return.

Why is?

Costs for a first degree or initial vocational training can usually not be deducted as advertising costs in the tax return, but costs for a second training can. The Federal Finance Court, the highest German tax court, saw this as a violation of the principle of equality in the Basic Law. Therefore, he submitted six cases to the Federal Constitutional Court in 2014. The argument: Study costs are also an investment in one's own career in the first degree and should therefore be considered as advertising costs. After all, they ultimately served to “generate income subject to income tax,” thus creating taxpayers.

How did the constitutional court rule?

The Karlsruhe court saw no reason for a change. The judges decided that the first apprenticeship or first degree immediately after graduation not only imparted professional knowledge, but also shaped the personality of young people. Students could develop talents and skills that “are not necessarily necessary for a future specific profession”. In addition, there are many courses of study that do not specifically prepare for a job - and many jobs that do not depend on a particular degree. The apprenticeship is therefore much more than just taking up a job and earning (taxable) money.

Which regulation continues to apply?

According to the Income Tax Act, expenses for vocational training or a degree can be claimed as advertising costs if you have already successfully completed another degree or another degree. This also works if you don't pay any taxes during your studies - the bonus is redeemed the first time taxes are incurred. There is no maximum amount. It is still controversial whether a master’s degree is considered second degree after a bachelor’s degree.

Can't you claim anything during your first degree?

Yes, but that brings only a few advantages. The costs for the first degree or initial training can be deducted as special expenses. But this is only possible up to an amount of 6000 euros and only if you already pay taxes - for example because of a lucrative part-time job. The situation is different in the legal clerkship, in an apprenticeship or a dual study program. If initial training "takes place in the context of an employment relationship" - usually if you get a salary while doing so - the expenses are considered to be advertising costs.

What kind of training costs is it about?

The list is long - from expenses for an application for a training place to printing costs for the final thesis. In addition there are semester fees, examination fees, the interest for a student loan, sometimes rent for the shared apartment - if you are registered as a second home at the place of study. All receipts for travel expenses to university, specialist books, laptops and printer paper could also be submitted.

Income tax law at advertising costs

Tax return for students

Those who already have certain income during their studies can benefit from filing a tax return. Two things are important for the creation to be worthwhile: The taxable income must be above the basic allowance of 9408 euros. And the expenses for the study must be verifiable, as Isabel Klocke from the taxpayers' association explains.

For example, the costs for the trip to the university, for specialist literature, computers, an internship or a semester abroad, as well as the binding of the thesis or seminar thesis can have an impact. The Federal Finance Administration also lists accommodation costs and additional expenses for meals for external accommodation.

Deduct special expenses during your first degree

Students can deduct certain costs for their studies from tax as special expenses - up to 6000 euros per year. However, they are only taken into account if taxes are paid this year. If students have low income, the expenses expire: the tax refund cannot exceed the taxes paid. The items are entered in the special expenses annex under the heading vocational training costs.

According to the Federal Finance Administration, those who study full-time can also claim a lump sum for the distance between the home and the educational institution as advertising costs. Lines 31 to 38 of Appendix N must be completed.

Present losses in the dual or master's program

On the other hand, those who study dual or have already completed vocational training before starting their studies may claim advertising costs. The Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) has confirmed a corresponding requirement in the income tax law. This rule also applies to many master's students. The advantage: Students can claim the full amount of the training costs. In addition, the so-called loss carryforward can also have an impact years later when taxes are incurred for the first time.

The exact conditions under which costs can be deducted during the master's degree has not yet been finally clarified. The federal government of taxpayers recommends that the expenditure for this be stated in the income tax return. The right place for this is Annex N.

Important: Students must be able to prove the expenses when the tax office asks, explains Klocke. For this they should collect invoices, receipts or bank statements. Experience has shown that the tax office does not recognize self-created receipts, especially with large sums, according to the tax expert.

Source: zeit

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